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Written Statements

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Agriculture and Fisheries Council


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Right Hon Friend the Secretary of State (Elizabeth Truss) has today made the following statement.

My Noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley), represented the UK at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 10 November in Brussels. Richard Lochhead MSP was also present.


Deep Sea Fishing Opportunities 2015 and 2016

Commissioner Vella outlined his ambitions for setting fishing opportunity levels for deep sea stocks in 2015 and 2016. He stressed the need to manage stocks sustainably and to protect the long term interests of EU fishermen. Several Member States raised concerns with the Commission’s proposals and pressed for higher Total Allowable Catches (TACs). Lord De Mauley, along with Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, agreed with the Commission that deep sea ecosystems and fish stocks were particularly vulnerable and needed to be fished sustainably to ensure the future of deep sea fisheries. The Presidency and the Commission engaged in political negotiations over the course of the day and eventually tabled a compromise proposal, which Spain and Portugal voted against. The compromise proposal was, however, agreed by qualified majority voting.


2015 Budget Amending Letter

A majority of Member States opposed the Commission’s proposals in its Amending Letter to the 2015 budget to fund the emergency measures in response to the Russian import ban from the CAP Crisis Reserve. These Member States also supported a common declaration tabled by France setting out their opposition. Lord De Mauley expressed sympathy with Member States who have been heavily impacted by the illegal and unjustified trade measures imposed by Russia. However, he made clear that the Commission’s proposal was part of much wider budget negotiations and that Finance Ministers would need to consider this within those discussions. Commissioner Hogan noted comments and stated that conciliation discussions were ongoing.

Cyprus state aid

The Commission agreed to Cyprus’ request to remove a Council Decision under Article 108(2) TFEU, granting an exemption from state aid rules to waive all tax on motor fuel used for agriculture, from the Council agenda until December.

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Any other business

Organic Regulation

Lord De Mauley, along with a number of other Ministers, broadly supported the common declaration of the V4+3 countries (CZ, PL, HU, SK, BG, RO, SI) which calls on the Commission to ensure its proposal for a new Organic Regulation promotes growth of the sector. The Netherlands, Austria and Germany questioned whether the Commission should withdraw its proposal and start again given the extent of Member States’ concerns. Commissioner Hogan said that he was willing to consider changes to the proposals and hoped that an agreement could be reached in 2015.

Peaches and nectarines

Commissioner Hogan rejected a Greek request for additional support measures for Greek peach and nectarine producers arguing that prices in Greece were above the EU average. He also urged Greece to consider structural problems in the sector as it had suffered three crises in the last six years and these would reoccur if problems of oversupply were not addressed.

Young farmers

The Presidency presented a short paper on ideas to strengthen EU policies for young farmers. Several Member States were interested in the idea of working with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to increase young farmers’ access to credit. While underlining the range of existing measures available to support young farmers, Commissioner Hogan confirmed that he had established a working group between the EIB and his Commission services to explore ideas in this area.

ICAAN internet domain names

France and Spain urged the Commission to prevent the sale of generic internet domain names such as .wine or .vin as it risked undermining the protection of EU producers, particularly those with registered Geographical Indications. Commissioner Hogan stressed that he was keeping this under close review.

Protection of honey bees

Slovenia called for a new legal framework on residue levels for substances in bee feed composition. Commissioner Andriukaitis stressed that he would do all he could to protect bee health but believed Member States and bee keepers were often better placed to help.

Western Corn Rootworm

Austria, Hungary and Romania called for EU-wide measures to prevent the spread of the damaging Western Corn Rootworm. Lord De Mauley supported their request and underlined the need to review the pesticides regulation. Commissioner Andriukaitis offered to examine the situation and acknowledged that a harmonised pesticide approval system would improve the availability of pesticides.

Equitable Life


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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As of 31 October 2014, the Scheme has now issued payments totalling £990.5 million to 887,061 policyholders. The Scheme has published a further progress report, which can be found at www.gov.uk/equitable-life-payment- scheme.

The figures are broken down as follows:

409,221 payments to individual investors have been issued totalling £555.2 million.37,732 initial payments to With-Profits Annuitants (WPAs) or their estates have been issued by the Scheme, totalling £82 million. Subsequent annual payments totalling £187.5 million have also been issued to annuitants.440,108 payments totalling £165.8 million have been issued to those who bought their policy through their company pension scheme.

There are now approximately 151,000 policyholders who are due a payment but where the Scheme has not yet been able to trace or validate their address.

The Scheme has gone to significant lengths to trace eligible policyholders. It remains committed to tracing and paying as many eligible policyholders as possible, and will continue to consider all proportionate actions it can take to do this, including working with the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Scheme encourages any policyholders who believe themselves to be eligible to call the Scheme on: 0300 0200 150. The Scheme can verify the identity of most policyholders on the telephone, which means any payment due can usually be received within two weeks.

G6 Paris


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My rt hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The informal G6 group of Ministers of the Interior from the six largest European Union countries held its most recent meeting in Paris on 6 November 2014. Representatives of the United States of America, Canada, Turkey and the European Commission attended for part of the meeting.

The summit was chaired by the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and I represented the United Kingdom. The other participating States were represented by Jorge Fernández Diaz (Spain), Teresa Piotrowska (Poland), Angelino Alfano (Italy), and Thomas de Maizière (Germany). The USA was represented by Alejandro Mayorkas (Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security) and Eric Holder (US Attorney General). The European Commission was represented by Dimitris Avramopoulos (Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship) and the European Union by Gilles de Kerchove (EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator). In addition to the usual attendees Efkan Ala (Turkey) and Steven Blaney (Canada) were present.

The first session of the day was on priority issues for the next European Parliament. The discussion touched on border checks and the importance of

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balancing security and liberty but focused mainly on the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive. Delegates agreed on the importance of making quick progress to conclude the PNR Directive.

The lunchtime discussion was on migration flows. The group collectively agreed the importance of implementing the JHA Council conclusions of 10 October covering action in cooperation with third countries; reinforced management of external borders and Frontex; and action at Member States' level - reception and fingerprinting. The European Commissioner (Avramopoulos) said the implementation of the conclusions would be a priority for the Commission. Conversation in this session also touched on the importance of securing borders and the need for fingerprinting asylum seekers at their point of entry to the EU.

The first session after lunch was titled ‘Radicalisation via the Internet’. Delegates noted the positive progress that had been made following discussions with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and agreed the need for joint working.

The final session of the day was on the issue of foreign fighters. A number of countries reported developments and M. Cazeneuve (France) noted their new legislation which enables them to ban people from leaving the country if they thought they were involved in terrorism by way of withdrawal of their passport and ID card. He concluded by suggesting that all countries would benefit from a power to revoke passports and that it was vital that information sharing be improved. He noted that there must be progress on PNR and border checks and strengthening of co-operation with Turkey.

In my interventions, I supported the need for an EU PNR Directive which included PNR on intra-EU journeys, supported the JHA Council conclusions of 10 October on future migration policies and set out the action which the UK has taken to tackle the problem of returning foreign fighters.

It was announced at the meeting that the next G6 will take place in Dresden in Germany on the 1st and 2nd June 2015.

Information Commissioner’s Office (Triennial Review)


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties (Simon Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

“I am today announcing the start of the triennial review of the Information Commissioner’s Office. Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to making sure that non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) continue to have regular independent challenge.

The review will identify and examine the key functions of the Information Commissioner’s Office and consider how best the functions can be delivered, including whether they should continue to exist at arm’s length

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from Government. Should the review conclude that the functions should still be performed by the Information Commissioner’s Office in its current form, it will go on to consider the potential for securing efficiencies and examine whether their control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance. The findings at both stages of the review will be examined by a challenge group.

Further details of the review, including how to submit evidence to it, can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/. The deadline for responses is 16th January 2015.

In conducting the Triennial Review, officials will be engaging with a broad range of stakeholders and users of the Information Commissioner’s Office. The review will be aligned with guidance published in 2014 by the Cabinet Office: Guidance on Reviews of Non Departmental Public Bodies. I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed and copies of the report of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.”

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (Annual Report)


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Schools (Mr. David Laws) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I wish to inform the House of the publication of the Government’s response to the second annual report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is an independent body which monitors the progress of the Government and others in improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom. The Commission plays a vital role in ensuring the Government makes progress in both of these areas and we are grateful to it for its thorough and comprehensive report.

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We are committed to ending child poverty. As set out in the Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17 published earlier this year, we are taking action to improve the life chances of children by: raising the incomes of poor children’s families by helping them get into work and making work pay; supporting the living standards of low-income families; and raising educational outcomes of poor children. This approach reflects the reality of child poverty in the UK today and is the only way to achieve lasting change to protect the poorest in society.

Fairness is a fundamental value of this Government, and improving social mobility continues to be a primary goal of our social policy. We are determined to break down the barriers to social mobility at all stages of a person’s life, from when they are born right through into adulthood, to ensure that everyone can fulfil their potential.

A copy of the Government’s response will be available later today at www.gov.uk/dfe.

University of Northampton (UK Guarantee)


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): My right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Danny Alexander) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

UK Guarantees was announced in July 2012 with enabling legislation, the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012, receiving Royal Assent on 31 October 2012. The scheme provides a sovereign-backed guarantee to help infrastructure projects raise debt finance. Guarantees for up to £40 billion in aggregate can be offered under the initiative.

The government is confirming that it has approved a guarantee for £291.5m to the University of Northampton for the construction of its new Waterside Campus.

The government will report to Parliament on the financial assistance given in line with the requirements set out in the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012.